Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dana Economies in the FWBO

Today, in the third and final article by Siddhisambhava in this weeks series on money, we publish ‘Dana Economies’, a look at how many FWBO centres run and fund themselves.

“….money and its uses, how we think about giving and receiving, how we define our role as Buddhists within a consumerist culture, and how Buddhist groups and centres fund themselves are among the most important moral and practical issues facing…Buddhism in the coming decades.”
Santikaro, in his article on

practising generosity in ‘Hooked: Buddhist Writings
on Greed, Desire and the Urge to Consume.’

Written for the European Chairs Assembly held at Taraloka in January, her article is based on research into the financial situation of fourteen centres: twelve urban centres in the UK, plus one retreat centre and Dublin. It begins with an outline of the inspiration behind centres running a ‘dana economy’ ie the Buddhist monastic tradition of an economy of gifts between the monks and the laity. It looks at the areas we need to attend to in our context today: the centre itself, its teachers and staff, including volunteers, and the other people the centre ‘serves’.

Some centres charge for most of their programme. One centre, Sheffield, runs a 100% dana economy ie everything is by donation. Most centres run what Siddhisambhava calls ‘a mixed economy’. The financial situation of centres varies enormously so it’s hard to make straightforward comparisons and there’s no one way to run a dana economy. It seems that the way that centres run their economies is often based as much on the practical needs of the situation as much as, if not more than, a clear vision – for very understandable reasons!. And Siddhisambhava certainly isn’t arguing for economic uniformity: an important principle of the FWBO is that centres are autonomous. Yet some common themes and questions emerge.

It’s an interesting snapshot of how FWBO centres are dealing with the financial challenges that face them. It raises issues and questions for every one of us who have ever benefited from going to a Buddhist centre – and who want to see the Dharma survive in the years ahead. How do you relate to the dana bowl?

Siddhisambhava's article is available on FWBO Features at

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